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When I began preaching the Gospel, I did so under the influence of numerous preachers--Billy Graham, W.A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, Stephen Olford, and others. Sadly, influence became imitation, and I began to copy the mannerisms of the preachers--a sermonic copycat.

The preaching fell flat. There was no authority and no liberty. I was caught up in appearances and not captivated by Christ. My intentions were not all bad. I wanted to excel in the pulpit, and in measure to so glorify Christ. Yet, I felt like I was wearing a straight-jacket when I preached.

Before long, I understood that God had not called Billy Graham to pastor Cane River Baptist Church in Burnsville. He had sent me. He wanted to use my personality in that place--to empower me by His Spirit and free me to be all He designed me to be. It was such a liberating day, when I realized that even though I was influenced by these preachers, I was not required to imitate them. I could learn from them, but I need not be a clone.

Pastor, years ago, I heard of an old black preacher who stated, "When I get up to preach, other men get up inside me." It is humbling to realize that we are shaped by the influence of others who have gone before us. Thank God for them and how God has used them to mold our ministry. But, you are not them--you are the one whom God has called and He has a place just suited for you! "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Eph.2:10 NKJV). The Greek word rendered "workmanship" is poiema, from which we get our word, "poem." That is, our life is one uniquely written by God--a life of rhyme and reason.

Dear church member, don't expect your pastor to preach like some social media sermonic sensation. I am not disparaging them. I listen to others on Youtube and you name it. But, when you are in the hospital, they are not going to visit you. When you need a shoulder to cry on at a funeral, they will not offer one. Your pastor can speak directly to you--the truth in love--because he is with you and knows you. Show up and support him!

Please pray for me as I seek to learn from others who have experience as Associational Mission Strategists. I have a ways to go. Bottom line, however, is that I am Dennis Thurman, and want to be used of God, and testify with Paul, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor.15:10).

Yours In Serving Him,

Dennis Thurman, AMS

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